Bill Wittliff and Jack Unruh are paragons of Texas culture. Wittliff wrote the screenplay for Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove and in 1986 founded the Southwestern Writers Collection at Texas State University, which includes papers from Texas writers like J. Frank Dobie, John Graves, and Cormac McCarthy. Jack Unruh is the Dallas artist who illustrates the Texanist, the Texas Monthly reader advice column on how to be authentically Texan. They collaborated on Wittliff’s new novel, The Devil’s Backbone, and will discuss their relationship on Sunday afternoon. “Jack’s great gift to me was to make visible in his pictures what I perhaps had in my imagination all along but didn’t know it until he showed me,” Wittliff said. “In his very first illustration, he got everything I was trying to say about Old Karl in the whole book—he’s a mean ol’ turkey-necked S.O.B.” Wittliff’s psychedelic western, the first in a trilogy, follows Old Karl’s son, Papa, on a quest with his dog, Fritz, through 1880’s Texas Hill Country and Mexico to find his estranged mother.
Texas State University, Dec. 7, 2 p.m., thewittliffcollections.txstate.edu
It is hard to come up with a better description for Kevin Russell, an Austin musician, than his own Twitter bio: “psycholiteranaut w/8 AA batteries—tweed facade—equal parts Waylon Jennings, Robert Rauschenberg, and Harvey Korman.” He is half of the singer-songwriter duo comprising the Gourds, the quintessentially old-school-Austin roots band currently on hiatus. Playing under the moniker Shinyribs, Russell will return to his native Beaumont for the Tunes for Toys show at Eastex Automotive. Admission is free with the donation of a new, unwrapped gift. It is the perfect occasion for Russell to break out “East TX Rust,” a funky duet he recorded with Ray Wylie Hubbard, from his 2010 debut album Well After Awhile, or “Take Me Lake Charles,” a sentimental coming-of-age tale about crossing the border into Louisiana for casino adventures, from his 2013 album Gulf Coast Museum. At the very least, Russell will be in appropriate spirits. “I should do the Santa thing this year,” he said. “It’d be hilarious.”
Eastex Automotive, Dec. 11, 7 p.m., shinyribs.org
Have a Ball
In September, Rick Lowe, founder of Project Row Houses, a community-based nonprofit in Houston’s Third Ward, was awarded a $625,000 MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant. It was the result of passion, yes, but also innovative cultural programming. A fairly new offering from the organization is the Live at the Eldorado concert series, paying homage to the 1939 Eldorado Ballroom, which enjoyed a mid-twentieth-century heyday as a black social club and earlier this year was awarded a Texas Historical Marker. For this show, the Houston trombonist Andre Hayward will channel the glory years when superstars like B.B. King, Ray Charles, and Etta James played there, and when Goree Carter, the musician from Houston who is thought to have invented rock and roll, was discovered there. Proceeds benefit the restoration of the building, designed by Lenard Gabert, the Houston Art Deco architect.
Eldorado Ballroom, Dec. 5, 8 p.m., projectrowhouses.org
It’s a Wrap
Tamales are like the original Hot Pocket: warm masa infused with all sorts of fillings, like the classic combo of pork and red chile sauce, and stuffed in a corn husk. They date back to pre-Columbian times, when the Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas used them for sustenance during prolonged battles and while on hunting excursions. In Latino culture, they are the stars of parties known as tamaladas, where families get together after Thanksgiving and make them, assembly-line style, for consumption and to use as Christmas gifts, because they literally require unwrapping to enjoy. More than forty tamale vendors will celebrate the staple at the fifth annual Tamales Holiday Festival.
Pearl, Dec. 6, 12 p.m., atpearl.com
Mick Fleetwood, the Fleetwood Mac drummer, took up photography in the late sixties, around the time his band formed, but it was not until now that he has his own touring exhibit. Art lovers who buy $1,950 worth of pieces from “Reflections,” a display of landscape and nature shots, will receive admittance to a December 13 reception with Fleetwood.
Samuel Lynne Galleries, Dec. 10-14, roadshowcompany.com
Take a Bow
The inaugural Festival of Texas Fiddling is decidedly Old World, taking place in an 1869 dance hall with performers whose styles predate the fast and furious contest fiddling for which the state is largely known, including Brian Marshall, an expert in Polish tunes; Ed Poullard, a master of Cajun songs; and Howard Rains, a reviver of traditional Texas numbers.
Twin Sisters Dance Hall, Dec. 6, 12 p.m., texasfolklife.org